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updated: 5/15/2017 5:09 AM

How Cathy Leman is pivoting her business

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When the doctor gives you a diagnosis you really didn't want to get, chances are the potential impact on your business won't be the first item on your OMG list.

Ultimately, however, you will have to deal with how your medical situation will affect your business.

For Cathy Leman, the diagnosis was cancer -- breast cancer, to be specific.

This column isn't about Leman's cancer, however. Rather, the story is about how Leman is refocusing her business -- NutriFit Inc., once a Glen Ellyn nutrition and training studio -- into what inevitably is a personal, but also well-reasoned, battle against breast cancer.

It's the well-reasoned part that fits here. What Leman seeks to do is blend her professional knowledge and skills -- she's a registered dietitian with a master's in health psychology and strong business savvy -- into a mission "to help women adopt nutrition, food and fitness strategies that may reduce the incidence of breast cancer (and) improve outcomes for those who are diagnosed."

The business decisions an owner with a difficult medical diagnosis faces are not easy to make. Leman, for example, decided to close her studio and pivot the business to serve the breast cancer community, a different market.

"We're all fingerprints, all different," says Long Grove attorney Irv Capitel. "It's a time to assess priorities, a prime time to have the family talk.

"How are we going to work this out?"

Capitel, who has written and counseled extensively on such issues, acknowledges "There are no simple answers" to the what-do-we-do-about-the-business question. "There may be business debts to be paid. Patents and copyrights may be involved. There may be a buyout in the partnership agreement," Capitel says.

There often are family issues, too, one reason Capitel suggests bringing in a "neutral mediator, someone who will ask the questions that need to be asked."

Leman's diagnosis came in October 2014. Only family and a few close friends knew.

"I kept my diagnosis private," Leman says. "I had to deal with it in my own way. I needed to accept the process."

Today Leman is well into rebranding herself as an online resource who uses webinars and online cooking demonstrations -- in addition to podium presentations and writing -- to reach as large an audience as possible with "an evidence-based, scientific nutrition message."

Her most public event was a "DAM. MAD. About Breast Cancer" dinner and educational event in March; a posting earlier this month served as the kickoff of a planned blog series about fitness and breast cancer.

Like most entrepreneurs, Leman is betting on herself. "I'm not a breast cancer researcher. I'm not an oncology dietitian. I don't claim to have all the answers," she says on her new website (www.cathyleman.com).

"I don't believe in a cure, and I'm not waiting for one. I do believe in the power of nutrition and fitness to build physical resilience which in turn may support better outcomes."

• © 2017 Kendall Communications Inc. Follow Jim Kendall on LinkedIn and Twitter. Write him at Jim@kendallcom.com. Listen to Jim's Business Owners' Pod Talk at www.kendallcom.com/podcast.

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